MLB Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers (08/08/17)

By Mark Dankenbring @MarkDank

MLB Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers

With the dog days of August officially in sight, we welcome you back to another edition of Risers and Fallers for this week's MLB Power Rankings. Our Power Rankings are developed using players on the active depth chart, which causes fluctuation week-to-week based on injuries and who is in and out of the lineup. To see a full description of how our Power Rankings are created, as well as this week's full list of rankings, please visit here.

To absolutely no one's surprise, the Dodgers remain atop the rankings this week alongside their historic 44-7 run. Even though the division race is all but over, the Dodgers will bring excitement to the rest of the regular season as they chase the 2001 Mariners' 116-46 record for the best regular sesason in MLB history. The Cubs jump up to #2 in our rankings as they've posted a solid 16-7 record since the All-Star break and look poised to expand their lead in the NL Central. The Indians drop to #3 with the Cubs' rise, and the Astros and Red Sox join them to represent the AL in the top five. Boston and Cleveland both enter Tuesday with a 3-game lead in their respective divisions, while the Astros continue to coast to the AL West crown. The Rays replace the Pirates in the 10th spot as they enter Tuesday as the AL's second wild card. Tampa Bay will likely need the wild card to enter the postseason as they're 5.5 back in the AL East and are looking up at the Red Sox and Yankees, who both look much better since the trade deadline. We see a lot of movement outside our Top 10 this week as we see teams settle into their current rosters after the deadline, but we'll start by taking a closer look at the Chicago Cubs, as they moved up three spots this week.

Top 3 Risers

Chicago Cubs - #5 up to #2

The Cubs seem to have found their mojo from 2016, as their 16-7 record since the All-Star Break sits them atop the NL Central and provides them over a 90% chance of making the postseason, according to FanGraphs. Chicago's offensive resurgence is largely responsible for their success post All-Star Break, as they've averaged over 5.5 runs per game since the break. Willson Contreras has been their spark plug, as he's second in the majors with 10 homers since the ASB and is leading the majors with 29 RBIs in that span. His .735 slugging percentage is behind just Giancarlo Stanton, Nolan Arenado, and Chris Taylor, as Contreras is showing Joe Maddon he doesn't want to lose any at bats to newly acquired Alex Avila. The starting pitching has stepped up since the break as well, as Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Jake Arrieta have gone 10-1 with ERAs all below 3.05 in their 14 starts, and Kyle Hendricks has looked better since his return from an injury as well, and is the only one not benefitting from the Cubs' offensive explosion, as they've offered him just five runs of support in three starts. Chicago is just 1.5 games up on the Brewers heading into Tuesday, but are the heavy favorites to prevail in the Central.

Tampa Bay Rays - #15 up to #10

The Rays are a team that continues to fluctuate in the AL, and are likely chasing the wild card as their only hope to make the postseason. Tampa Bay has gone 11-12 since the All-Star Break, but added Lucas Duda at the trade deadline to help bolster their offense. Thus far, Duda has done just that, batting .323 with three homers and a .677 slugging percentage through 10 games with the Rays. Along with Duda, Evan Longoria has been on fire since the break, as he's batting .319 with five homers and 13 RBIs, as well as leading the Rays in WAR over that span. The pitching staff has had success since the break as well, currently sitting 7th in the majors with a 3.82 ERA and are tied for third in saves with 8. Their bullpen still remains one of the worst in the majors, however, which isn't a great sign for a team trying to make the postseason. Their rotation will lengthen and add a big piece tomorrow in Jake Odorizzi, who can help take some pressure off the bullpen, and the pitching will likely be the key to the Rays success down the stretch. I'm hoping Tampa stays in the race to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox, but the wild card will likely be their best shot for postseason play.

Baltimore Orioles - #19 up to #14

The Orioles were dead to rights just a few weeks ago as they were 42-49 and had little hope of a postseason berth. However, they acquired Jeremy Hellickson and Tim Beckham at the deadline, much to the surprise of onlookers, and have gone 13-7 in their last 20 games to find themselves just 1.5 games back in the AL Wild Card. Their offense has come alive in the second half, as they currently lead all teams in scoring since the All-Star Break, and have clubbed 38 homers, which is second behind the Chicago Cubs since the break. Jonathan Schoop has been on fire since the break, batting .330 with seven homers, 21 runs, 28 RBIs, and is slugging .608. The only man hotter than him has been his new teammate, Tim Beckham. Since joining the Orioles, Beckham is 15-28 with three homers, seven extra base hits, and is slugging 1.036 in his seven games with the team. On the mound, Kevin Gausman has started to transform his season, as he's 5-0 with a 2.87 ERA in his last eight starts. Gausman has found his strikeout stuff, fanning eight batters in his last four games and striking out at least seven in eight of his last ten starts. Baltimore might be able to pull themselves out of the hole they created in the first half, and their offense along with some quality starts from their pitchers will likely be the recipe down the stretch.

Top 3 Fallers

Texas Rangers - #11 down to #16

Texas became sellers at the deadline despite being within range of an AL Wild Card Spot, and just a little over a week later they remain just 4.0 games back of the second AL Wild Card. Their offense remains loaded with power and run scoring ability, but their rotation lacks any luster with the removal of Yu Darvish, leaving Andrew Cashner as the WAR leader among pitchers for the Rangers. Since the All-Star break, the Rangers have the 5th worst ERA in the majors at 5.27, with their starters being responsible for a 6.16 ERA since the break. Texas has a clear agenda heading into the offseason, as they'll need to revamp both the starting rotation and bullpen, as their offense will likely finish Top 10 in the majors this season in runs scored. Their first move might be to go resign Yu Darvish after his rental with the Dodgers has ended, but they'll need more reliable starters behind him, as Martin Perez is the only starter who will like reach 30 starts for the Rangers this season, and he currently holds a 5-10 record with a 5.46 ERA. Hopefully Cole Hamels can have a rebound year next season by staying healthy, as this will be his first season since 2007 in which he won't make 30 starts. Texas will likely hang around the race as this season progresses just due to their offensive effectiveness alone, but the organization has made it clear their focus is on 2018.

Kansas City Royals - #14 down to #17

The Royals appeared to be making their push for the AL Central when they won 9 in a row leading up to the trade deadline and subsequently acquired Melky Cabrera, but have gone just 3-7 since that streak and are just 13-12 since the All-Star break despite their winning streak. The loss of Salvador Perez for a few weeks definitely hurts their chances moving forward, as he's not only a staple in the middle of their lineup, but also has great command over the pitching staff in KC. Kansas City is still in a great position to make the playoffs, however, as they are currently tied in the second AL Wild Card spot with Tampa Bay, and their offense is undoubtedly better moving forward with Melky. They've scored the 5th most runs since the All-Star break, as Whit Merrifield leads the way with a .327 average and .577 slugging percentage since the break, and Mike Moustakas has added seven homers to take his career high to 32 heading into Tuesday. The Royals drop this week with their injury to Perez, and it's unsure how consistent they'll be down the stretch, but KC still remains the best bet for the second Wild Card spot in the AL.

Detroit Tigers - #17 down to #24

The Tigers sold at the deadline this year and will likely enter a full rebuild mode in the next few years. They lost J.D. Martinez and Alex Avila, who were two of the top four WAR producers for the Tigers in the first half of the season, and Martinez has shown his talents by already clubbing six homers in his 13 games with the Diamondbacks. They've scored just 23 runs in seven games in August and have a 4.95 team ERA since the All-Star break. They have a lot to fix moving forward, and Michael Fulmer seems to be the likely cornerstone that they build around. His recent trip to the DL hurts them considerably in our rankings this week, as he's been their best pitcher by more than a win in WAR calculations. Moving forward, what they do with Justin Verlander and his remaining contract will help in determining the direction of their rebuild, and it will likely be several seasons before the Tigers are making noise in the AL Central.